Management of your law firm’s directory listings and legal profiles is vitally important to ranking highly in local search and one of the most important directories in the legal niche is AVVO.
AVVO, now part of the Martindale, Nolo, and Lawyers.com brand, is an online platform where consumers can search for attorneys, research their backgrounds, and obtain answers to legal questions. With over 8 million visitors to their directory every month, AVVO is indeed a major player in online marketing and thus the one directory you want to be sure the attorneys in your firm are well represented in.
AVVO claims to have listings for more than 97% of all licensed attorneys in the U.S. in their directory. They’re able to include such a large number by creating default profiles, using information collected from various sources, including court documents, state bar associations, and other public records. Using that information, AVVO then rates lawyers on a scale of 1 – 10, based on their own proprietary algorithm. Attorneys can and should claim their profile and provide additional, updated information in order to improve their rating.
There are many SEO-related benefits to having a profile on the AVVO platform:
- A strong backlink, with a decent amount of “SEO juice” linking your AVVO directory back to your website
- Client reviews provide strong social signal
- AVVO’s badge on your website is a strong trust signal
- Google’s algorithm ranks directories very highly in search results
AVVO is considered an authoritative website and, as such, it ranks well for both keywords and specific firm names. As a result, searchers are often likely to visit AVVO before visiting individual law firm sites.
That’s not to say AVVO doesn’t have its challenges; it does. Many attorneys distrust the platform and have gone so far as to file lawsuits, claiming the AVVO ratings system is deceptive.
AVVO’s ratings are based on many different factors, one of which is the presence and number of peer endorsements. While the platform makes it relatively easy to request the reviews from within the system, your colleagues need to claim their own AVVO profile before they can endorse you.
Another common complaint is the lack of control attorneys have when it comes to the content on their profiles. Since AVVO creates the initial profiles, combing public records for information, the information posted may or may not be accurate. That includes whether or not an attorney has ever been subjected to disciplinary action by the state bar association. Attorneys who have been reprimanded for simple technical violations of the rules of professional conduct are not allowed to appeal or provide an explanation on their profiles. The only way to remove or update inaccurate information is to join AVVO and claim the profile.
By the way, that AVVO profile is there to stay, as they will not delete an attorney’s profile under any circumstances.
In some circumstances, joining AVVO might be in violation of ethics rules. Some state bar rules of professional conduct impose a strict prohibition on client testimonials. Attorneys are required to ask that the information posted in violation of the ethics rule, such as client testimonials, be removed and/or they are required to disassociate themselves from the site if it refuses to remove the information. AVVO does not allow attorneys to request removal. It also does not allow for the removal of a profile, thus allowing an attorney to disassociate him or herself from the site.
In July of last year, AVVO was forced to shut down its AVVO Legal Services product in response to ethics opinions issued from several state bar ethics committees warning attorneys not to participate in the marketing program.
Still, for many, the benefits far outweigh those challenges. Since AVVO is going to publish an online profile anyway, it makes sense to make sure it’s accurate and update it to improve your rating as much as possible, assuming your state bar permits.
Improving Your AVVO Rating
Fortunately, there are many ways you can improve your AVVO rating:
- Claim your profile
- Verify that the details that AVVO obtained from public records are correct. Update any inaccurate info.
- Fill in your profile as completely as possible. Be consistent in the way you format your firm name, address, and phone number. Include as many details as possible, especially dates. AVVO gives greater weight to more recent activity when calculating rating.
- Secure endorsements from your colleagues
- Request reviews from your clients. Client reviews don’t actually impact AVVO ratings, but with enough reviews, you’ll earn the “Client’s Choice Award.” Positive reviews or testimonials are proven marketing assets for any law firm.
- Add all associations that you belong to such as the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, your state bar association, and any local community groups like the Kiwanis Club or Knights of Columbus.
- Provide details about your publications and speaking engagements. Include any online content such as white papers or blogs that you’ve published. Public seminars that you’ve presented should be listed as speaking engagements.
- Contribute to the AVVO platform by authoring Legal Guides and participating in their Q & A forum. Potential clients post questions pertaining to various legal issues. Responding to these questions will not only improve your AVVO rating, but will also showcase your authority in a specific niche, something that prospects are always pleased to see.
AVVO does for the legal sector what Zagat does for the restaurant industry. It really can be a powerful marketing tool for attorneys, regardless of your specialty. The more committed you are to keeping your profile updated and making contributions to the discussions and consumer questions, the more success can be found on the AVVO platform.
Director, Web and Online Marketing Services
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128